Akshaya Linga Vibho!!!

Akshayalinga Shanmukha Page 1

akSaya linga vibhO svayambhO

Raga:shaHNkarAbharaNam / Tala: mishra cApu


akshaya linga vibhO svayambhO

akhilANDa kOTi prabhO pahi shambO


akSarasvarUpa amita pratApa

ArUDha vRSa vAha jagan mOha


dakSa shikSaNa dakSatara sura

lakSaNa vidhi vi-lakSaNa lakSya

lakSaNa bahu vicakSaNa sudha-

bhakSaNa gurukaTAkSa vikSaNa


badarIvanamUla nAyikA sahita

bhadrakALIsha bhakta vihita

madana janakAdi dEvamahita

mAyAkArya kalanA rahita

sadaya guruguha tAta guNAtIta

sAdhujanOpEta shaHNkara navanIta-

hRdaya vibhAta tumburu saHNgIta

hrIm kAra sambhUta hEmagiri nAtha


sadAshrita kalpaka mahIruha

padAmbuja bhava ratha gaja turaga

padAdi samyuta caitrOtsava

sadAshiva saccidAnandamaya


  1. Introduction

It is well-acknowledged that SankarAbharaNam is a melody that enjoys great importance universally, in almost all the systems of music, from time immemorial.  A raga that is almost similar to the Major Diatonic scale, or the C Major of Western music, this rAga definitely enjoys a regal status in the realm of Indian music and particularly in Carnatic music.

Being the 29th mELa, SankarAbharaNam is one of the six mELas that can boast of possessing symmetrical tetra chords in the scale arrangement and it is one of those grandest of melakarta ragas that possesses samvAdi pairs (consonant pairing of notes) for all the svaras, like S-M1, S-P, R2-P, R2-D2 & G3-N3.  Almost as a natural consequence, it is not really surprising that the rAga is so appealing to the senses and that it instantly ushers in a mood of sublimity considering that there is so much of samvAditva or consonance inherent in its structure. Also, all svaras excepting the madhyamam, are tIvra svaras. This shuddha madhyama here acts as a bridge and balances the tIvra svaras of the pUrvAnga and the uttarAnga, thus sustaining the innate sublimity of the melody throughout.

Muttuswami Dikshitar’s akshaya linga vibhO  is one of the very popular kritis on the concert platform.

Without doubt one of the grandest compositions extant in Carnatic music, Akshayalinga Vibho is a brilliant testimony to Dikshitar’s genius.   The prosodic beauty of the kriti blends perfectly and is stunningly beautiful musically.  Dikshitar’s complete command of the Sanskrit language, the magnificent descriptions of the deity (this kriti is said to be based on Lord Siva at Kivalur, a town near Nagapattinam in Tamizh Nadu), and above all the really really beautiful Shankarabharanam that is showcased in full glory through this magnum opus of a kriti.

With reverence and humility this author has attempted to provide a glimpse into some of the eternal truths that have been symbolized in this kriti.

  1. Pallavi

akshaya linga vibhO svayambhO

Siva’s linga is symbolic of the Parabrahman and his swaroopa.  And generally in the temples dedicated to Siva – at least in South India, the form to which ‘archana’ is offered to, is the linga.

In Tamizh we say ‘uruvam’ (the swaroopam – that which is visible) and ‘aruvam’ which is the ‘archana murthi’, i.e. the form to which prayers are offered.

A combination of both ‘uruvam’ and ‘aruvam’ becomes ‘aruvuruvam’ and this is the linga.

Also the linga’s shape is basically elliptical.  Since the Earth is also elliptical the linga can be interpreted to be that Siva is beyond borders and shape (yellattaikkaDandavan).

‘vibhu’ – means the leader – and Siva is the leader of everything and consequently all the ‘vaibhavam’ (opulence) are his attributes.

And he is ‘svayambhu’ – he came into being by himself – no one was responsible for his birth or creation.

akhilANDa kOTi prabhO pAhi shambhO

It is immediately apparent that the word ‘akhilANDa’ is a ‘sandhi’ of ‘akhila’ and ‘aNDa’.

‘akhila’ – means all or everything  and ‘aNDa’ denotes the universe we live in.  kOTi of course is crores and Siva is the prabhu who rules over all the several crores of universes.

We all know that beyond this universe and beyond the Milky Way lie several universes – that we cannot with our limited knowledge, understand or comprehend.  What Dikshitar emphasizes is that Siva is lord of all those universes and more!

pAhi shambO – ostensibly is a vocative for ‘Siva, protect!’  The word ShambhO consists of the syllables ‘sham’ and ‘bhu’.  ‘sham’ is mangalam – all that is auspicious.  And ‘bhu’ means origination.  Therefore Siva’s origin is auspicious and he symbolizes all the good, auspicious things – happiness, peace and prosperity leading to bliss.  As his very name suggests (Sam karoti iti Sankara — “He who blesses is Sankara”).


  1. Anupallavi

akSarasvarUpa amita pratApa

ArUDha vRSa vAha jagan mOha

Moving on to the anupallavi, Siva is ‘akSarasvarUpa’.  ‘akSara’ means the alphabet and he represents the alphabet in order to communicate and the vehicle that he uses for this communication is also his own self and hence he is himself the ‘akSarasvarUpa’.

The mode of communication and the vehicle for all communication took shape by itself (‘swa-roopa’) and he is the embodiment of this and therefore he is the basis for all language.

‘amita’ is someone who is absolutely without any shortcomings whatsoever; and

‘pratApa’ denotes qualities.  Hence ‘amita pratApa’ typifies complete absence of shortcomings and blemishes with all the best qualities to the brim.

In the next line, Dikshitar changes tack slightly by describing Siva as ‘ArUDha vRSa vAha’.  ArUDha literally means ‘having climbed’ (or ‘seated on’ for a better contextual interpretation!) and the subsequent words ‘vRSa vAha’ is the picture of Siva on his mount, the Nandi or the divine Bull (‘vRSa vAha’).

Before Dikshitar embarks on the wonderful Madhyama Kala passage, he ends this particular portion with ‘jagan moha’ – which can be interpreted to mean that Siva creates all the illusion and holds the world (jagan) in his grip of illusion.

It would not be out of place to mention here that Siva represents constant action.  When we consider the structure of the basic unit, i.e. an atom and its structure, we see that the electrons around the atom are in a perennial state of motion and are eternally dynamic.  The nucleus is stable and Vishnu reclining on Adi Sesha represents the nucleus while Siva represents the electrons.  The electrons are constantly moving in a frenetic pace and this is Siva’s taandavam.  In complete contrast is Vishnu who is the epitome of calmness in his reclining yogic posture.


  1. Anupallavi – Madhyma Kala

dakSa shikSaNa dakSatara sura

lakSaNa vidhi vilakSaNa lakSya

lakSaNa bahu vicakSaNa sudha-

bhakSaNa gurukaTAkSa vikSaNa

Without doubt the madhyama kala that follows the anupallavi is truly mind-boggling in terms of the fluidity of language and the sheer ease with which Dikshitar has employed the use of the relatively rarer syllable ‘ksha’ as the ‘dvityaakshara praasam’.

Dikshitar begins the madhyma kala with ‘dakSa shikSaNa’.  The story of Siva’s notorious Father-in-law Daksha is well-known.  And Daksha represents the ego and Siva is destroyer of the ego, which truly is the cause for all conflict in modern society!


‘tara’ denotes the comparative in the three degrees of adjective comparisons.  Siva is better than anyone else in imparting to Daksha that the ego is the cause for all trouble and misery and he puts this most effectively with ‘dakshatara’.

‘sura lakSaNa’ – he has all the possible qualities that are embodied by the ‘suras’ i.e. the good people.  ‘Suras’ can be interpreted to mean the devas as well.  This expression basically denotes that Siva is the embodiment of beauty.

vidhi vilakSaNa – he will do everything in the straightest possible way – there is nothing roundabout or better still, no ‘beating about the bush’ with him!

lakSya lakSaNa – he is the ultimate aim of all aims and goals.

bahu vicakSaNa – he is superlatively intelligent and he is the one who consumed (“bhakshaNa”) nectar (“sudhA”) during the churning of the ocean in the Kurma Avatara episode.

gurukaTAkSa vikSaNa

‘vikSaNa’ means a side glance (a better and more effective word in Tamizh is ‘kadaikkan paarvai’ – here is where translation becomes woefully inadequate!)

The Guru is the adi guru which is Dakshinamurti; and Siva in the form of Dakshinamurti with his ‘kadaikkaNpArvai’.  This is also referred to and applied by Dikshitar to goddess Kamalamba in his in his meditative Bhairavi navavaranam (katAksha vIkshaNya)


  1. Charanam

badarIvanamUla nAyikA sahita

badarivanam denotes Badrinath – the well-known badari kshetram.

mUla nAyikA sahita  – he is always with the feminine form i.e. Lalitha

The famous stotra “… lalitA pumrUpA krsna vigrahA” implies that Lalitha’s masculine form is actually Krishna.  The feminine is Lalitha and it is with this feminine form that Siva is in eternal companionship.

bhadrakALIsha bhakta vihita

He is the lord of Bhadrakaali and he is always in such a state of tranquility that his devotees’ feel a calmness of stature especially with regards to the mind.  He is endowed with the quality to soothe the disturbed minds of his devotees.

madana janakAdi dEvamahita

He is honoured and praised by Mahavishnu (the father of Cupid – madana janaka) and other devas.

mAyAkArya kalanA rahita

He is the one who is devoid of, and beyond (“rahita”) the effects (“kalanA”) of activities of delusion (“mAyA kArya”).

sadaya guruguha tAta guNAtIta

‘daya’ means compassion and the syllable ‘sa’ denotes aggregation.  Hence Siva is ‘sadaya’ – he is the aggregation and therefore the epitome of compassion.

The word ‘sadaya’ could also be interpreted to mean his son, i.e. Subramanya denoted here by Dikshitar’s signature ‘guruguha’ and hence Subramanya is someone who’s an ocean of compassion and Siva is *his* father.  And he is beyond the three gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas.


sAdhujanOpEta is the formation of two words – sAdhujana + upEta

‘upeta’ is the final abode (literally it means reaching) and Siva is the final abode of all the good people (sAdhujana).

shaHNkara navanIta hRdaya vibhAta tumburu saHNgIta

vibhAta here means melting.  Siva’s heart melts like butter on hearing the music of Tumburu (a celestial saint like Narada).  As a natural result, this leads to ‘hrIm kAra’.

hrIm kAra sambhUta hEmagiri nAtha

Thus this is how the holy ‘hrim kAra’ makes its presence felt (‘sambUta’ means making its presence felt).

hEmagiri nAtha – he is the lord of the mountain of gold (denoting ‘ponnambalam’).

Syama Sastri’s well-known Kalyani kriti ‘himAdri sutE’ has the anupallavi beginning with ‘sumEru madhya vAsini’.

The mountain that is denoted by ‘sumEru’ (higher than mEru) is said to be even higher and ‘above’ Kailasa.   ‘sumEru’ is also known as ‘hEmAdri’ and this is said to consist of four peaks.   Goddess as ‘ambAL’ or Sakti is said to be seated in the epicentre of these four peaks and this is the centre that is ‘srInagara’ (hence she is srInagara vAsini).

Since Siva and Sakti are really one, and the ‘hrim kAram’ is actually the representation of hEmagiri and the lord of this hEmagiri  is hEmagiri nAtha!


  1. Charanam – Madhyma Kala

sadAshrita kalpaka mahIruha

padAmbuja bhava ratha gaja turaga

padAdi samyuta caitrOtsava

sadAshiva saccidAnandamaya


sadAshrita = sadA + Ashrita

sadA – always;

Ashrita – taken or sought as a refuge or shelter

mahIruha = mahi + ruha;  mahi – the earth and ruha – originating and hence mahIruha means a tree.  Hence he is always the ‘kalpaka mahiruha’ – the wish-fulfilling tree to those who have taken or sought refuge in him.

padAmbuja – feet like a lotus

bhava is one of the eight names of the Lord as Rudra.  Hence his consort is Bhavani.

Here Muthuswami Dikshitar gets into the description of the Chaitrotsava – the festival that takes place in the month of Chaitra.  The magnificent festival consists of a pageantry of chariots, elephants, horses and the army.

ratha – chariot gaja – elephant and turaga – horse

padAdi – all the sentries, armies

samyuta – in confluence with

sadAshiva saccidAnandamaya

sadAshiva – he is always imparting auspiciousness.


sat denotes the purest form of sattva guna.  Chit is pure intelligence.  When ‘sat’ and ‘chit’ combine, ‘Ananda’ i.e. bliss is the result.  And he is the embodiment of this i.e. ‘maya’.

  1. A Few Additional Thoughts

It is common knowledge that the music of the pallavi especially the way the kriti begins is very similar to Tyagaraja’s well-known ‘manasu swAdhInamai’.

That apart, it is worthwhile to point out some of the very noteworthy points of this wonderful composition.  In the pallavi, when Dikshitar addresses Siva as akhilANDa kOTI prabhO, he comes to rest on the Madhya shadja, after he has painted a very convincing introduction to Shankarabharanam that traverses right upto the taara sthaayi madhyamam.  The coming to rest on the madhyama shadjam produces a wonderful effect of ‘visranti’.  And it seems as if he gets up again with an impassioned appeal for protection, ‘pAhi SambhO’!

Dikshitar indulges in a similar exercise in the Anupallavi – he effectively builds up a crescendo in the second line (ArUDha vRSa vAha…) by first preparing and constructing the base in the middle octave for the first line “akSarasvarUpa amita pratApa”.   The madhyama kala’s music is also built up in a similar fashion.

The relatively lengthy but thoroughly appealing and scintillating charanam is one of Dikshitar’s best and is also a testimony to two things – one being the limitless creativity of Dikshitar and the second being the limitless scope of the Emperor Raga Shankarabharanam.  Nowhere does the music of the kriti become repetitive or monotonous – it sounds uniformly fresh and sonorous all through the various descriptions of Siva as the almighty.

One can only conclude that by a stroke of great fortune, we all have currently the felicity of listening, enjoying and appreciating such a wonderful creation of a realized soul like Dikshitar.  Clearly with a creation like Akshayalinga vibho, Muthuswami Dikshitar transcended the mundane and proved and continues to prove to the world that the sole purpose of music is to make man perfect and help him realize his unity with God.  Akshayalinga Vibho is thus an eternal fragrance left by Muthuswami Dikshitar that shall never wither.

About Mohan Santhanam

Carnatic vocalist, based in Chennai. Disciple of Late Shri T.R.Subramanyam (TRS).
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